Sermons are now being posted here. To access the sermons from August 2009 to May 2011, please go to the St. James the Assiniboine website. The link is in the column to the right.

To add your own comment, click on the '# Comments' phrase at the bottom of each post: it will take you to the composing window.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

June 26, 2011 Sermon: the Patronal Feast of St. James the Apostle

Good morning and welcome especially to our visitors. It’s good to be back here in our heritage church for the patronal Feast of St. James the Apostle. If you have not yet heard, we at St. James are excited about the news of our historic building being awarded the Hidden Gem of the city by Doors Open Winnipeg. It was our first year participating and quite a few turned out. This church and our Collegiate Street church will both be on the list next year.

While we celebrate our patronal festival at this time each year, the actual date for this feast is July 25. Our community is named after one of the Apostles: James, the son of Zebedee. He and his brother John were among the 12 disciples of our Lord. Together with Peter, they were privileged to witness the transfiguration (Matthew 17), the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law and the raising of the daughter of Jairus. James was also called aside to watch and pray with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before Jesus died. James and his brother John were fishermen, but according to research the two were on a higher social level than the average fisherman. Their father could afford hired servants and John had connections with the High Priest. The two brothers were nicknamed the “Sons of Thunder” by Jesus, likely because they were headstrong, hot tempered and impulsive. On one occasion, for example, Jesus and the disciples were refused the hospitality of a Samaritan village and James and John proposed to call down fire from heaven on the offenders.

In today’s Gospel reading, we hear of another occasion. The two sons of thunder are looking for a special place of honour in the Kingdom. Their mother actually asks “Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, the other on the left in thy kingdom.

Jesus gives the two stern advice, saying those who want to be greatest in the Kingdom must be the least of all. It was a difficult concept to grasp for someone inclined to be impulsive and ready and quick to take on authority. The human nature wants to be in control and authority is sometimes exercised through power and use or abuse of control. The only reason the two brothers would be concerned about the place in the Kingdom is if they had this inflated view of themselves and their place in society and in particular their place among the rest of the disciples.

And so, Jesus asks “Are you able to drink of the cup I shall drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” The disciples were plainly told that the way of honour was the way of suffering.

True leadership in Jesus’ mind was as a result of servant hood. The authority of the disciples would come from their ability to serve. The leadership of the Apostles would need to demonstrate the way of leadership was the way of love. Jesus then used His own life as an example. “Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

The way of servant hood is often born out of suffering. One who has suffered and has experienced healing, forgiveness and love, knows something about that and can effectively witness to others. Liturgically, the servant role is recognized in the procession and recession in the service. The clergy, you may notice, and the bishop when he is in attendance, are always at the end of the line-up as the least shall be first. Leadership is always from behind, encouraging, enabling, equipping, shepherding, and not up front dictating the way.

This type of leadership style was not uppermost in James’ mind at the time and perhaps not until much later. Prior to the death of Jesus, the disciples often felt confused over Jesus’ teaching that He must die in order for the plan of God to come into play. Instead, the disciples often challenged Jesus expecting Him to act as a military style leader; a Messiah who would ultimately bring final peace by way of the sword or violence.

The disciples, including James, did not understand that the way of Jesus was the way of unconditional love, of surrendering to God and obeying His command to go out and make disciples of all nations. However, that partial understanding was corrected I believe when the disciples were alone in the Upper Room and Jesus appeared among them. He said, "'As the Father has sent me, I now send you.” He then breathed on them and said “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven. If you retain the sins of any they are retained.’

The reception of the Holy Spirit transformed the disciples from frightened followers into Apostles. The word “Apostle” means “sent.” From that moment, the Holy Spirit, the very life of Jesus, was working in the Apostles to continue the work Jesus had begun. Through the Holy Spirit, the Apostles would continue the healing and miracles and they preached with a new energy. The Holy Spirit guided them and eventually, at Pentecost, the Apostles were there when many more received the Holy Spirit and the church began in earnest.

As for James, he carried out the work of an Apostle, delivering the same Gospel message as Jesus and the other Apostles. Just as that message threatened military and political leaders of Jesus’ day, it would do so again. James became the church’s first martyr. About AD 42, shortly before Passover (Acts 12), James was beheaded by order of King Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great (who tried to kill the infant Jesus—Matthew 2), nephew of Herod Antipas (who killed John the Baptist—Mark 6—and examined Jesus on Good Friday—Luke 23), and father of Herod Agrippa II (who heard the defense of Paul before Festus—Acts 25). James was the first of the Twelve to suffer martyrdom, and the only one of the Twelve whose death is recorded in the New Testament. (

As you know, a church is not the four walls of a building. As beautiful a place that this is, the heritage church of St. James the Assiniboine is not the church. Rather, the church is you and me, the people who gather week by week in one spot and who identify themselves with one community of people.

Back in 1812, the first group of Selkirk settlers established a burial ground immediately south of where St. John’s Cathedral in the north end is today. The Rev. John West, the first Anglican priest in Western Canada, arrived from England under the auspices of the Church Missionary Society and the Hudson’s Bay Company, in October, 1820.

The church would expand, moving west from the Red River settlement and the congregation, a group of Red River settlers and Hudson’s Bay employees, started to worship in 1849 at this location. The original church was consecrated in 1855. Prior to that, the site had been used as a refuge for victims of the flood of 1852. This church was built in an ideal location high enough to avoid flood waters.

That original community was made up of ordinary folks like you and me. The church and the community that had developed around them worked together to establish a thriving community. Eventually, this whole area would take its name from our church’s leadership and be known as St. James Assiniboia.

We are pleased to honour our original agreement with the Hudson’s Bay Company to ensure a worshipping community would remain on this site and we have not faltered. Instead, we have seized the Apostolic leadership of James and worked alongside our neighbourhood to continue to promote the Good News, that God so loved the world, so loved you and me, that he gave His only begotten Son, to the end that all who believe in Him would not perish in sin but have eternal life.

Today, St. James still works alongside the neighbourhood to include and involve people in programs such as Happy Mike’s, our outreach to singers and song writers and the concert series that starts here July 6 at 7 p.m., our Lighthouse program on Collegiate Street that reaches out to at-risk youth. We work in partnership with groups like the Neighbourhood Resource Network. We offer our 12 Steps to Spiritual Growth program and our Quiet Days once a month at the Collegiate Street location where we worship through most of the year. Later this summer, we will once again offer a Video Camp and Vacation Bible School.

Those early settlers had it right. The community and the emerging church were one and supported each other. At St. James, we continue to offer the same leadership and we welcome those guests from the City that we cherish as partners and supporters of our common cause to love one another as Jesus loves us.

Let us remember the command of Jesus to the Church wherever it may be, whether it is comprised of Anglicans, Lutherans, Baptists, United Church, Roman Catholic or other. “Go…and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” And then Jesus says this…. “Remember…I am with you always to the end of the age.” Let us pray.

O gracious God, we remember before you today your servant and apostle James, first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the Name of Jesus Christ; and we pray that you will pour out upon the leaders of your Church that spirit of self-denying service by which alone they may have true authority among your people; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. (

Sunday, June 19, 2011

June 19, 2011 Sermon: Trinity Sunday

Also, Aboriginal Day of Prayer
.Father Murray has taken holidays this week to drive up to The Pas to pick up wife, Brenda, who's been there on a term position teaching Child Care. We welcome her back to the fold next Sunday at the opening of Heritage Church.

Rev. Doug McCormack officiated this day.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

June 12, 2011 Sermon: Pentecost

Pentecost by Anton Raphael Mengs, 1765

Good morning and welcome. At this time of year, while we welcome the warmer temperatures, we also welcome the storms that come, such as the tornadoes that hit recently in the southern United States and the major flooding that has hit the prairies.

The storms hit fast and furious and the associated winds are devastating. It’s hard to even imagine that type of destruction. Yet this year we have witnessed a one-in-350 year occurrence of flooding along the Red and Assiniboine and associated rivers. Countless numbers have been evacuated from their homes. For some, sand bagging made no difference. Up along the Interlake and Lake Winnipeg, it had no effect on the direction of the winds. If they were from the south, damage was limited. If they were from the north large tracts of land were swallowed.

We have no control over the weather, over the storms that come to us. We have little warning and, in many cases, in the small countries overseas, there is no warning. Not long after an earthquake, for example, there is tension while residents wait for a possible tsunami or tidal wave that can devastate an entire country.

And so it is that we are here today to hear of another violent storm, a wind that blew renewal into a frightened bunch of followers not unlike you and me. It was not long after the death of Jesus that His followers scattered and made their way to an upper room for fear of the Jews, we are told. Those same followers of Jesus who felt they were safe, who felt they were knowledgeable about the end of the earth, about the coming of God’s reign, were holed up in the upper room. Their savior, their Lord, their Messiah, was beaten, humiliated, scourged and hung on a cruel cross to die, not unlike the other criminals of the day. In fact, there were two other criminals with Him, one on Jesus’ right, and one on His left.

This same Jesus, who told His disciples He must die in order to rise again, faced a storm of another kind…that of incredible violence to His person, His dignity and finally, suffering that ended His life. While He suffered on that cross, the disciples scattered. One of those disciples, Peter, even denied three times that he knew Jesus.

At the point of today’s reading, the disciples are afraid, until a wonderful event happened. This violent wind filled the room and tongues of fire rested on each of them. All were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues. Everyone understood the message in his/her own language.

Peter, the very one who denied he knew Jesus, now stands up with the eleven, addresses the crowd and quotes the prophet Joel, saying, “Listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It is only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my spirit on all people. Your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my spirit in those days and they will prophecy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Peter is describing the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It was the fulfilling of the promise Jesus Himself had made. “I will not leave you orphaned, I will come to you. I will send you the comforter, the Holy Spirit.” Earlier, in the upper room, as we heard today, Jesus fulfilled His promise by breathing on the disciples and gifting them with the Holy Spirit.

What we are hearing about in today’s readings is the birth of the church, the sending of the Holy Spirit to many more gathered people coming from many varied lands. Up until that time, Jesus was known to His followers in person and He had taught them about God’s love, about miracles, about forgiveness and how much God loved them. The disciples walked and talked with an earthly Lord.

Yet, He had told them many times He must suffer and die and rise again, so that He could send the Holy Spirit. While Jesus was with them, the disciples could not understand this.

Essentially, the Holy Spirit is the third person of the trinity—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. All three existed before time as you recall in Genesis… “Let us make man in our image”… The plan of salvation was that God would come into our lives and interact with us that we might come to know Him personally, that we might learn how to forgive, how to love unconditionally as He loves us.

In order to fulfill His promise of being with us forever, and of opening a gateway for us to eternal life, God’s plan of salvation was to become human and to die for us, for you and for me, so that we would not have to struggle in sin, but have eternal life.

Jesus knew we would have problems on this earth, He knew we would suffer from all sorts of storms in our life—health problems like diabetes, heart ailments, dietary problems, problems with depression, mental illness and low self-esteem, problems with relationships, problems with loss and grief. He knew we would get into all kinds of trouble and stray away from His message of faith. We are human after all, and that is part of our nature, to rebel, to want to have things our way, to go it on our own.

Jesus knew we would struggle, so He said “I will not leave you alone as orphans, to struggle… I will send you the comforter, the Holy Spirit, to be with you forever.

At that first Pentecost, the believers received the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, sent by Jesus, would give them all new life, would lead them out of despair, out of depression, out of sickness, out of the storms of life and into new life. The Holy Spirit would remind them of all of the things Jesus had said. He would give them the gifts they would need for ministry. The Holy Spirit would convict them of their wrong doings and bring them to repentance, to a new behavior. The power of God, through the Holy Spirit, had the power to transform lives.

The evidence of this was in Peter, the very one who disowned Jesus three times. This same Peter was one of the disciples who abandoned Jesus at His death and fled for safety for fear of his life.

This same Peter was given the strength, the courage, the power to witness to the Holy Spirit in his life. He challenged the authorities of his day and called them to repentance. He was a new person in Christ.

As Christians, we have the same Holy Spirit within us today. We have the same capability to draw on the power of God to witness, to bring healing, to transform lives. In fact, it is our calling. You don’t have to be ordained to have a special mission or ministry for God. God has given each of us at least one spiritual gift as mentioned in Corinthians—perhaps it is the gift of speaking in tongues, perhaps it is the gift of teaching, perhaps it is the gift of leadership. There are many. This past week, we met with the clergy of the diocese at Pinawa and heard teachings from the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop, Mark Macdonald. Many of you would have met him at the opening of our historic church last summer. Mark’s message to the clergy was that indigenous people are waking up to healing in their lives and that awakening is coming through Jesus. Many are discovering the “Jesus Way,” as described in a book by Richard Twiss, One Church Many Tribes. The Jesus way is a movement of people discovering new life in Jesus outside of any denomination. It is a way we as followers of the risen Lord must appreciate and assist others with as well.

The Holy Spirit gathers us as common followers of Jesus, creating the Church. The Holy Spirit gifts us for ministry. At St. James, I see many gifts at work in lay readers, in music direction, in altar guild, in readers, servers and administrants, in vestry and committee members and in the community, in the Lighthouse program and Happy Mike’s to name a few. I see gifts at use in the wider community as well, in the various careers and jobs our folks are in. For example, just a couple of weeks ago I had a chat with Kayla Johnson, happily assisting the Indigenous community through her work with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

Through the Holy Spirit, we can come to know God, to know Jesus in a very real way. We cannot see Jesus face to face, but He is present in each of us, and so we need to look for His face in each other, we need to listen for His voice in each other and we need to be His hands and His feet in today’s world. And boy, does that world need Him, with violence, war, drug abuse, sickness, and disease rampant. This month, the Church takes time to honor Indigenous or First Nations or Aboriginal peoples in Canada. Our Prime Minister has apologized for the suffering of survivors in Residential Schools and our church along with the Roman Catholic, United and Presbyterian have apologized and pledged to work at healing and reconciliation.

I encourage all of you to learn about Aboriginal issues and to join me and others in the Indigenous community at a Sacred Circle, a diocesan Sacred Circle to be held at Pinawa September 9 and 10. This unique sacred gathering will be packed with learning opportunities and a chance to meet some very gifted and loving Indigenous people. Thanks to the bishop, I am acting as co-chair of the planning. I hope to offer some learning opportunities prior to the fall event, and I hope you can join us. Reconciliation only happens in relationship, when Indigenous and non-Indigenous come together in friendship and love. I have seen it happen and I look forward to it happening again.

Pentecost marks the birth of the church, but let us remember that Jesus did not come into this world to establish a church. He came that you and I might have life and life in abundance. He came that you and I would forever be in relationship with Him. It has been said by elders in the Aboriginal community that the early missionaries came to this country bringing us Jesus Christ, instead we got the church; … ‘we got the church’ — when I say that I mean what we see in the form of bishops, priests, deacons, lay readers, vestries.

In other words, an institution. Those elders were right. The church back then and today is really you and me in relationship with a living God. This is the essence of Tweet’s thesis in “One Church Many Tribes”, a recovery of the relationship with Jesus.

We come to that living God in prayer and we communicate with Him. Through prayer, that very same God Who was mentioned in the Pentecost reading comes to dwell in our hearts and lives.

There are many today who are not in churches, in the buildings. Why? Because they have not grasped this truth of the church being the people and not the building or the institution. Today, some who were in the church have left after being hurt by someone within the church itself. My former lay reader in northern Manitoba once told me he had a hard time going to church because the very ones who went said the words, prayed the prayers and then went home and did the opposite by drinking and abusing family members. There are many stories like that in many parishes.

The message of faith, the message of Pentecost, the message of the church, was not clearly understood. The one who is in Christ is a new person, the old life of sin has passed away. The person is transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and the person is led by the Holy Spirit to a life of love. If this is not happening, you have to question whether the message is understood. Perhaps it is a matter of ownership of the message.

Having said that, we must also understand that Jesus Himself said the church is not a place for perfect people. Rather, it is a hospital for sinners. It is a place where the love of Christ can transform the human heart and move people to love and service for others and for God. For the one in Christ, that person becomes a servant to others and follows in Jesus’ path. Jesus Himself said “I have come not to be served but to serve.”

Serving others is not always easy, especially if there is hatred or jealousy or pride operating. Through the Holy Spirit, we can learn patience, be given wisdom and direction to move ahead, eventually assisting others to find God’s love. We are told in the Bible that we are to witness God’s love but if we cannot find the words, the Holy Spirit will move in us to give us those words. The Holy Spirit will help us to grow in faith.

As Christians, we are in this world, but we are not of it, since we have the Holy Spirit moving in us. The face of God can certainly be seen in those we meet, but as Christians, we have access to the living Lord and His power. As a member of the International Order of St. Luke the Physician, for example, I have seen many healings. As we anoint with holy oil, we call upon the Holy Spirit to heal and make whole. That anointing is available to you or a loved one each week at the altar.

The Holy Spirit also has another task, and that is to draw us all together as one, as the body of Christ, as a family together. Have you ever heard someone say “I can be a good Christian at home. I don’t need to go to church.” While it is true we can pray on our own, we can read the Bible on our own, we can call upon the Holy Spirit in our lives, it is only one part of a life in faith. It was the apostle Paul who told us we are like a body with many parts and each part works as part of a whole. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of smell be? And so on.

When we come to church, we connect with others in the spirit and in a very real way we become the body of Christ Himself. As His body, then, we worship and praise and glorify God and we are empowered by the Spirit to go into the world to proclaim God’s love and to bring others to know Him.

Happy birthday to our church, happy birthday members of St. James and may the Lord continue to bless us and to move us to continue to grow in faith and spread the good news of Christ in a world that desperately needs Him.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

June 5, 2011 Sermon: Ascension Sunday

Stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” Good morning and welcome.

Waiting. It is a hard thing to do. Perhaps it has something to do with anticipation. Something is about to happen and it may even feel exciting. Yet, there is nothing you can do until it actually happens, other than to prepare.
This past Thursday was the actual Feast of the Ascension and we are celebrating it today. Ascension marks 40 days into Easter and 10 days ahead of the Feast of Pentecost.

According to research, there are only two post-resurrection appearances of Jesus in Luke, both of which are unique to this Gospel. Jesus first appears to the two men on the road to Emmaus (24:13-35), and then to the disciples at the beginning of this passage (24:36-52). Both have overtones of liturgical shaping that suggest use in the early church in worship, perhaps in an Easter liturgy. The Emmaus story clearly has a Eucharistic setting (v. 35), while the final story concludes with a double emphasis on the community in worship (v. 52). This suggests that these stories are not simply the reporting of event, but are highly reflective theological recounting, bringing Gospel traditions to bear on the needs, concerns, mission, and identity of the emerging Christian community. (

The Ascension is an important story for us as it links directly to the resurrection. Prior to His death, Jesus opened the hearts of His followers to understand the scriptures concerning Him. While Jesus was with the disciples prior to death, He made a clear promise not to leave the disciples orphaned to struggle. Instead, He said He would send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to be with them. In the resurrection appearances, Jesus reassured His followers that His words of prophecy were coming true. They had witnessed His death. Yet, here He was in their midst, eating and drinking with them. He reminded the disciples that they now knew the truth and that Jesus would fulfill His promise to be with them forever.

“And see, I am sending you what my Father promised.” Jesus knew the disciples and all of broken humanity would need help. God’s plan of salvation was for everyone. In John 3:16 we are told that “God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to the end that all who believe in Him may not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus died upon the cross for your sins and mine. His death won for us the victory over both sin and death and opened the way to eternal life.

This is clearly a message of faith and one that is hard to fully comprehend. Yet, in the Ascension Gospel, we have clear instructions. Stay here. Wait. It’s a message for the church and its mission. Clearly, we have to wait upon the presence and power of God in order to achieve God’s purposes of reaching the world. But that is not even the heart of the message here. The message here is, first, to wait. There is a clear realization from the very beginning of Luke’s Gospel, that we simply cannot do what God has called us to do on any level without God’s help.

If we act without relying upon God’s power, we end up simply acting on our own human effort. That effort, without God’s power, God’s blessing, can have negative consequences. I was the rector of Christ Church before it closed. I believe we tried all we could do of our own human effort to bring about renewal. It wasn’t enough. While no one can say with certainty, if we had turned to God and sought Him in prayer and waited, perhaps our outcome would have been different.

At St. James, we wait. We wait, while we discern the movement of the Holy Spirit to bring about transformation. We are not the only ones. Other parishes in the deanery wait as well. Yesterday, there was a significant meeting for the people of the Parish of St. Chad’s. That community waits now to discern the next steps ahead.

As I said to start this message, while we wait, we do not remain idle. Part of discernment of where God is working and what He has planned is to prepare. We must prepare for new life, for transformation. This means we need people to actively turn their thoughts, their prayers to God to thank Him for what He has done for us and for the plan of new life He is bringing. We thank God for placing us in ministries of servant hood, and meanwhile, we carry out our ministries to the best of our abilities. It gives me great joy, for example, to see our family turn out each year to the Mary Lilac Tea and many thanks to those who participated. For us, it is one more opportunity to reach the neighbourhood and make connections.

In order to prepare as we wait, we must reflect on who we are as an Easter people and whose we are. We rise above the challenges of faith and see each other as loved brothers and sisters, a family that genuinely cares for itself and its neighbourhood. I have a story I want to share that will highlight this point.
It’s called “The Rabbi’s Gift” by Dr. M. Scott Peck.

Rabbi’s Gift
(shortened by 25%)
The Different Drum Version by Dr. M. Scott Peck *

The story concerns a monastery that had fallen upon hard times. It was once a great order, but because of persecution, all its branch houses were lost and there were only five monks left in the decaying house: the abbot and four others, all over seventy in age. Clearly it was a dying order.

In the deep woods surrounding the monastery there was a little hut that a rabbi occasionally used for a hermitage. The old monks had become a bit psychic, so they could always sense when the rabbi was in his hermitage. "The rabbi is in the woods, the rabbi is in the woods" they would whisper. It occurred to the abbot that a visit the rabbi might result in some advice to save his monastery.

The rabbi welcomed the abbot to his hut. But when the abbot explained his visit, the rabbi could only say, "I know how it is. The spirit has gone out of the people. It is the same in my town. Almost no one comes to the synagogue anymore." So the old abbot and the old rabbi wept together. Then they read parts of the Torah and spoke of deep things. When the abbot had to leave, they embraced each other. "It has been wonderful that we should meet after all these years," the abbot said, "but I have failed in my purpose for coming here. Is there nothing you can tell me that would help me save my dying order?"

"No, I am sorry," the rabbi responded. "I have no advice to give. But, I can tell you that the Messiah is one of you."

When the abbot returned to the monastery, his fellow monks gathered around him to ask, "Well, what did the rabbi say?"

“The rabbi said something very mysterious, it was something cryptic. He said that the Messiah is one of us. I don't know what he meant."

In the time that followed, the old monks wondered of the significance to the rabbi's words. The Messiah is one of us? Could he possibly have meant one of us monks? If so, which one?

Do you suppose he meant the abbot? Yes, if he meant anyone, he probably meant Father Abbot. He has been our leader for more than a generation. On the other hand, he might have meant Brother Thomas. Certainly, Brother Thomas is a holy man. Everyone knows that Thomas is a man of light. Certainly, he could not have meant Brother Elred! Elred gets crotchety at times. But come to think of it, even though he is a thorn in people's sides, when you look back on it, Elred is virtually always right. Often very right. Maybe the rabbi did mean Brother Elred. But surely not Brother Phillip. Phillip is so passive, a real nobody. But then, almost mysteriously, he has a gift for always being there when you need him. He just magically appears. Maybe Phillip is the Messiah.

Of course the rabbi didn't mean me. He couldn't possibly have meant me. I'm just an ordinary person. Yet supposing he did? Suppose I am the Messiah? O God, not me. I couldn't be that much for You, could I?

As they contemplated, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the chance that one among them might be the Messiah. And they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect.

People still occasionally came to visit the monastery in its beautiful forest to picnic on its tiny lawn, to wander along some of its paths, even to meditate in the dilapidated chapel. As they did so, they sensed the aura of extraordinary respect that began to surround the five old monks and seemed to radiate out from them and permeate the atmosphere of the place. There was something strangely compelling about it. Hardly knowing why, they began to come back to the monastery to picnic, to play, to pray. They brought their friends to this special place. And their friends brought their friends.

Then some of the younger men who came to visit the monastery started to talk more and more with the old monks. After a while one asked if he could join them. Then another, and another. So within a few years the monastery had once again become a thriving order and, thanks to the rabbi's gift, a vibrant center of light and spirituality in the realm.

Think of the possibilities where each member of the congregation is seen as honored and special, like the special guest who visits the congregation. Each of us is special, loved by God and deserving of our love and respect. When we love each other, it is obvious especially to newcomers and visitors. Who would not want to be a part of that?

And so, we wait. We wait for God’s power of renewal and blessings to come upon us. While we wait, we remain faithful and take steps to prepare for transformation. We remember the Lord’s commands, to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in His name to all nations.

When Jesus was taken up to heaven, there were witnesses. He went in bodily form to sit at the right hand of God. In rising and ascending, Jesus in all of His humanity, intercedes for us as our Great High priest as we hear of in the letter to the Hebrews. He knows our wants, our desires, our strengths and our weaknesses and He is faithful to us as we intercede and act in faith.

The community of faith that has love for one another and has faithfully waited upon God will indeed be empowered not only to reach the neighborhood but beyond into our world. May the Lord bless our waiting and come to us in the power of the Holy Spirit!